Preparedness is key in remaining safe in the event a tornado touches down.

Having supplies, remaining calm and a clear plan helps to ensure your safety and the safety of others around you.

“We have had a lot of calls and the police department has had some from people wanting to know where they should take shelter if there is a tornado in Waxahachie. People have been asking if there is a building or something designated for (a shelter),” Waxahachie Fire Chief David Hudgins said. “What we are telling people is they really should shelter in place during a tornado because you don’t know how much time before it arrives in your area. The last thing you want to do is to be in the car.”

Hudgins said people need to have a place picked out beforehand where they can go and take cover. It is recommended the room should be in the central part of a home, away from any outside walls, windows and glass.

People should have a clear plan written out along with a floor plan showing an alternate exit from the building after the storm has passed. They also should have basic supplies stored in the room they are taking shelter in, including a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, flash light, radio and a cell phone.

During bad weather, people should monitor ongoing conditions through television or with a radio because information such as affected areas and warnings will be given out over the air. It is also important to write down information such as telephone numbers for emergency services, insurance information and policy numbers, phone numbers for utilities and medical information including regular medications, allergies and a brief medical history. Important documents should be stored in a fire or water proof safe.

“One of the things that we do want to hit on is our warning sirens. They are outdoor warning sirens and if you hear them in your house then that is good (but) they are not designed to wake you up in the middle of the night,” Hudgins said. “We set our sirens off if we have a known tornado going our way 10 miles from the city or cloud rotation has been observed by weather spotters in or near the city.”

Hudgins said on days when the weather is clear sirens may be activated for other emergencies such as hazardous materials spills and evacuations. Sirens are tested at 1 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month, weather permitting. If the sirens do activate during a tornado, never try to outrun it in a vehicle. If no shelter is available, lie flat in the nearest ditch, ravine or culvert with your hands shielding your head.

If there is enough warning, the city will notify residents, who have registered with the Blackboard Connect System. This system notifies residents of different emergency situations through a prerecorded message. It can also send out text messages and email notifying people of an emergency. Residents can register to be a part of this system at the city’s website at www.waxahachie.com.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said some tornadoes are clearly visible, while rain or nearby low-hanging clouds obscure others. Before a tornado hits, the wind may die down and the air may become very still. A cloud of debris can mark the location of a tornado even if a funnel is not visible. Tornadoes generally occur near the trailing edge of a thunderstorm.

Hudgins also said people should take the same precautions for straight line winds because they can be just as deadly. Unlike a tornado, there is no warning beforehand of those, he said.

Contact Andrew at andrew.branca@wninews.com or 469-517-1458.